What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that can develop in or on the walls of the uterus during childbearing years. They can grow as single tumors or in clusters. Unlike malignant tumors, uterine fibroids do not spread to other parts of the body, and it is extremely rare for fibroids to become cancerous.
Uterine fibroids are the most common tumors within the female reproductive system, and the majority of women present with symptoms in their late 30s or early 40s. Fibroids can be debilitating and often put pressure on the bladder, causing frequent urination, as well as excessive bleeding, profound cramping, and pain.
Risk Factors of Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids affect 70 to 80 percent of women by the time they are 50. However, you are considered at risk if you are female of any age. African American women are three times more likely to experience fibroid growth than other racial groups.
Types of Risk Factors
Uterine Fibroid Causes
While the exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, clinical research and studies have shown that certain factors may increase a woman’s risk of developing the condition. Age is a key factor because fibroids occur between puberty and menopause. Fibroids also tend to increase in size when hormone levels are high.
Types of Fibroids
If you have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, it can be helpful to understand the different types of fibroids and how they can impact your life. The severity of your symptoms will depend on the location, size, and number of fibroids present. Learn more about the four main types of fibroids below.
An intramural fibroid, the most common form of fibroids, grows within the muscular walls of the uterus. If you have small intramural fibroids, you may only experience mild symptoms. But, depending on their size and location, they can lead to heavy periods that last 10 days or more, irregular bleeding between periods, and pelvic or lower back pain.
Subserosal fibroids are located near the outer layer (serosa) of the uterus, bulging into the pelvic or abdominal cavity. This type of fibroid can be attached to the uterus directly or via a thin stalk called a peduncle. Women with subserosal fibroids experience fewer issues with their uterus and more symptoms involving neighboring organs like the bladder, rectum, or intestines.
A submucosal fibroid develops toward the internal layer (mucosa) and protrudes into the uterine cavity. These fibroids tend to be symptomatic in smaller sizes, the main symptom being heavy menstrual bleeding. Submucosal fibroids are also more likely to cause fertility issues, both by making it difficult for women to conceive and causing miscarriages.
A pedunculated fibroid is attached to the uterine wall by a peduncle and can develop inside or outside the uterus. Pedunculated fibroids are considered to be a variation of subserosal or submucosal fibroids. While they usually have very mild symptoms, these fibroids can cause sharp stabbing pains when the fibroid rotates on the peduncle, interfering with the blood flow to the fibroid.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization
The American Fibroid Centers’ affiliated physicians are at the forefront of uterine fibroid care and treatment. They proudly offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive-image guided procedure, to safely and effectively reduce fibroids and their related symptoms without the need for surgery. Compared with hysterectomies, UFE has a faster recovery time, fewer complications, and no hospital stay.
UFE is performed by an American Fibroid Centers affiliated Interventional Radiologist (IR), and it is considered an outpatient procedure. An interventional radiologist can diagnose and treat conditions. They insert small catheters or other tools, and use image-guided techniques to guide them through the body. During UFE, a small incision is made in the groin or wrist area to access the artery using a thin catheter. Once the fibroids are located, tiny particles are injected, in a controlled manner, directly into the small blood vessels that “feed” the fibroids. The particles block the blood flow and cause the fibroids to shrink.
UFE vs Hysterectomy
Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. Approximately 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in the United States. However, it takes away any chance of you conceiving or carrying a baby. UFE preserves the uterus and requires only 1-2 weeks of recovery, compared with 6-8 weeks for a hysterectomy.
UFE vs Myomectomy
Myomectomy is considered a major medical surgery and requires a large surgical incision to access the uterus. Although the uterus is left intact, many of the risks are the same as those that occur with hysterectomies, such as infection, blood clots, and an adverse reaction to general anesthesia. UFE is much less invasive, and it can be used to treat multiple fibroids at once.
What to Expect from Your Fibroid Treatment
Uterine fibroids are almost always benign, meaning they are non-cancerous. Rarely, less than one in 1,000, a cancerous fibroid will occur. This is known as uterine leiomyosarcoma (ULMS). Most women with fibroids do not experience symptoms, and only a small percentage of fibroids will require medical treatment. Being diagnosed with uterine fibroids does not increase your risk of developing a cancerous fibroid or other forms of cancer in the uterus.
Small- to medium-sized fibroids that are asymptomatic are unlikely to affect your chances of becoming pregnant or giving birth to a healthy baby. However, fibroids may grow larger during pregnancy due to an increase in hormone levels and blood flow to the uterus. If a fibroid grows, it is usually in the first 12 weeks (first trimester) of pregnancy. In most cases, surgery is not necessary or performed during this time. Talk to your doctor if you have fibroids and become pregnant.
UFE is a minimally invasive-image guided procedure that will block blood flow to the fibroids in your uterus. Over time, this treatment will cause the fibroids to shrink. The results of UFE will vary depending on the location and quantity of your fibroids and your overall health, among other factors. If your fibroids do return, they are likely to grow very slowly. However, studies show that most women’s fibroids usually do not grow back after undergoing this procedure.
Our Fibroid Specialists
Our affiliated physicians in NJ and NY specialize in uterine fibroid treatment for women of all ages. They are committed to providing high-quality, patient-focused care within a safe and comfortable outpatient environment. When you visit American Fibroid Centers, our team will educate you about uterine fibroids and UFE as well as answer any questions you have about your condition.
What Our Patients Are Saying
Learn more about our patients’ experiences at American Fibroid Centers.
From the Experts
Get to know more about the symptoms, causes, treatment, and care of Uterine Fibroids.